Two top tactics for plotting and editing

Great blog post on plotting and editing by Lynne Milford.

L.M. Milford

Whether you’re writing something brand new or breathing life back into a manuscript you’ve found languishing in a drawer, getting started can be tough. Keeping track of your story line and getting balance right is always difficult. However, courtesy of Roz Morris I’ve found a couple of tactics that really work.

Plotting Book Two

The card game

This is probably something that you’ve heard of but if not, let me explain. Take a pack of index cards and a felt tip pen and write a short note on each card of what’s in a scene. Once you’ve got them all written down, you can start to play. Lay out all the cards in the order they come in – or that you think they come in. You’ll need a large table or area of floor for this bit. Once you’ve done that and taken a step back, it’ll become clear…

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Plotting with dialogue

Plotting with dialogue: a really interesting blog post from Janet Gover over on Take Five Authors.

Take Five Authors

The closest I usually get to plotting is a few scribbled notes on odd bits of paper. And usually this starts when the book is half done. The closest I usually get to plotting is a few scribbled notes on odd bits of paper. And usually this starts when the book is half done.

Whenever a few writers get together, at some point the age old question is going to come up…. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

This of course refers to our way of working. Do you plot the novel in detail in advance or do you just sit down and fly by the seat of your pants. I tend towards the latter, but in either case, the hope is that the result will be a novel. A good one with realistic characters and a gripping plot.

Last week I was confronted by a sort of third option – plotting with a few lines of dialogue. This a really intriguing idea came from Sophie Weston, who has sold about 12 million books world-wide…

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Just Read… Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough


Don’t Trust This Book

Don’t Trust These People

Don’t Trust Yourself

And whatever you do, DON’T give away that ending…


Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But all that changes when she meets…


Young, successful and charming – Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife…


Beautiful, elegant and sweet – Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her.

But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks… Is David really is the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears?
Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?

Despite only being published on Thursday, this book has been trending for a while with the hashtag #WTFthatending. I’ve just read that ending, and all I can say is that is the perfect hashtag!

Sarah Pinborough is a journalist and accomplished novelist. I’ve previously reviewed The Death House, The Language of the Dying and owe her a review for 13 Minutes, which I listened to on Audible just before Christmas. These books all have a hint of… well not supernatural, but out of the ordinary I guess. Behind Her Eyes is no different.

A psychological thriller, the story follows the increasingly complicated relationship that Louise has with her boss, David, and his wife Adele. But things are rarely as they seem, and as we watch Louise get drawn deeper and deeper into a two-pronged relationship, we uncover more and more about David and Adele’s past. The story is told through the alternating eyes of Louise and Adele. We get to see what they’re seeing, and also what they’re thinking. Not all of it though.

Behind Her Eyes is everything a psychological thriller should be. Taut, twisted, and with an ending that’s like a blow to the head with a bat. Simply stunning! 

My prediction: This book is going to be huge in 2017!

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Just Read… Watch Her Disappear, by Eva Dolan



The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.

With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer.

Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal…

This is the fourth book in Eva Dolan’s Zigic & Ferreira series, set in and around Peterborough. Corinne’s body was found in Ferry Meadows (been there!) and the Hate Crimes Unit need to find her killer. Was the murderer a family member, or was the attack related to the recent spate of hate crimes against the trans community?

In Watch Her Disappear, Dolan entwines a murder mystery with an exploration of the effects changing genders can have on a family, with husband/father Colin having become wife/mother, Corinne.  The author doesn’t shy away from sensitive subject matter, and has a reputation for addressing such with her own sensitivity and skill, which has been noticed by the Scottish Godfather of Crime Fiction, Ian Rankin: “Another writer, Eva Dolan, does very similar things with social issues. I love all these young writers, these young whippersnappers.”

Mr Rankin has good reason to love Eva Dolan. Her writing style is great: easy to read with story lines that pull you along. Although this is Zigic & Ferreira book 4, there is no problem with reading it as a standalone; no prior knowledge of the characters is necessary.

Watch Her Disappear will hit the shelves on Thursday 26th January 2017. Thanks to Harvill Secker for sending me this advance reader copy.

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Just Read… Beneath the Ashes, by Jane Isaac


When I say ‘just’, I mean last month. So technically last year. So technically this is me catching up on book reviews. Anyhoo…

This is Jane Isaac’s second DI Will Jackman crime thriller. Here’s the book blurb:

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

This is another great read from Jane – who I know, but don’t let that make you think this isn’t impartial; it is. I’ve read books before from friends that I didn’t particularly enjoy. As a rule, I don’t review those books!

In Beneath the Ashes, Will Jackman’s life is getting even more difficult. He’s called to investigate a burned-out barn, and an assault on a girl in the farm house; a farmhand’s girlfriend, Nancy. But the barn is hiding more than one secret, and with Nancy’s loss of memory, she might be too.

Jane’s books are well-written authentic (according to Lisa Cutts) police procedurals,  but like all good books, they’re character driven. Jackman’s wife has locked-in syndrome (look it up; one of Mark Billingham’s baddies tries to inflict it on people on purpose!), so he has to cope with solving the case whilst not getting distracted by both caring for his wife, and in this novel, the guilt of a potential romance with a visiting colleague.

So if you like well-written, authentic, character-driven police procedurals, this is one for you!


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Just Read… The Defence & The Plea, by Steve Cavanagh


Yes, that’s two books. The Defence is Steve Cavanagh’s debut legal thriller. The Plea is, well, his next one.

I normally read and review books singly, but I’ve been quite busy with life, so am a bit behind and decided to review both books in one go.

First up, The Defence:

Former con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn gave up the law a year ago after a disastrous case, and he vowed never to step foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. The head of the Russian mob in New York City, on trial for murder, has kidnapped Eddie’s ten-year-old daughter: Eddie has to take this case whether he likes it or not.

Using his razor-sharp wit and every con, bluff, grift, and trick in the book, Eddie has only forty-eight hours to defend an impossible murder trial. And if he loses this case, he loses everything.

Now I read (and listen to) quite a few books. I’ve got a list of favourite authors, and Steve Cavanagh has jumped straight on to it. The Defence is simply fantastic! Our protagonist, Eddie Flynn, is a small-time con man turned lawyer who is being forced by the Russian mob to defend their head, Olek Volchek. And by forced, I mean they have not only kidnapped his daughter, they’ve strapped a bomb to him as well!

A good thriller thrills, and The Defence does just that, on pretty much every page. Flynn is in an impossible situation, but he’s not entirely helpless. He’s a sharp lawyer, a sharper conman, and he has his own network of nefarious contacts.

Cavanagh writes Flynn into impossible situations, and creates a stunning page-turner as you need to find out how on earth he can extricate himself. And the momentum just keeps going, all the way to the end. The Defense is a fabulous debut – I loved it!

It’s a shame that it would be almost impossible to write a follow-up that would be anywhere near as good…


Almost. But not quite impossible. Which Cavanagh demonstrates with a follow-up that is easily up to the challenge. And maybe even better, because we now know Eddie Flynn. And know what he’s capable of. You might think that would spoil any surprises. Don’t worry. Cavanagh counters this by tossing Flynn into an even more difficult situation!

Here’s the blurb: “When David Child, a major client of a corrupt New York law firm, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm. Eddie’s not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie’s wife, and if Eddie won’t play ball, she’ll pay the price. When Eddie meets Child he’s convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child’s innocence while keeping his wife out of danger – not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.”

Once again, Eddie needs to use every ounce of his skill and wit to keep his wife safe, and his client out of prison. But we’ve seen the evidence, and David Child must be guilty. Eddie has looked him in the eye though, and he doesn’t think so. But how can he prove it?

I can only say the same for The Plea as I did for The Defence. A stunning, clever, high-octane page-turner. Okay, there were a few different adjectives there, but they apply equally to both novels.

So, if you haven’t read Steve Cavanagh yet, you need to get right on it! I for one can’t wait for the next Eddie Flynn novel, The Liar. Although I do have The Cross, a 149-page novella, waiting for me on my Kindle. 🙂



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BLOG TOUR: I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith


I’m delighted to be one of a number of fantastic bloggers taking part in a Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Graham Smith’s latest DI Harry Evans novel, I Know Your Secret. Wait.. that sounds like I’m saying I’m fantastic. I’m not. Saying it that is. Because that would be big-headed, right?



“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?


The book is set in lovely Cumbria, but don’t let that lull you into any sense of security, this book starts as it means to go on, and it means business!

DI Harry Evans is reliving a nightmare time in court by day, and by night he’s trying to balance being supportive of DI John Campbell, now heading the Major Crimes Team, without interfering too much. But Harry is finding that sometimes it’s hard to leave things be.

This is great book, well-rounded characters, plenty going on, and great pacing! And the ‘plenty going on’ bit is carefully managed so that it doesn’t get confusing.  Tight plotting keeps the story interesting, sharp dialogue does the same for the characters, and (did I mention) great pacing keeps those pages turning.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned Shouty Joe. He is fab!

I Know Your Secret is a great read (if you don’t mind the odd crucified priest), and is published today.


Thank you to Caffeine Nights for a free (no-strings-attached!) review copy.

About the author:


Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website since 2009

He is the author of four books featuring DI harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team:

Matching the Evidence

Snatched from Home

Lines of Enquiry

I Know Your Secret – Out today!
You can find Graham on Facebook and Twitter, or via his Website

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